If you happened to miss the first part of my emotastic musings, you can catch up here.
For those of you who don’t feel like reading the novella that I posted on the subject, here is a quick synopsis.
For the past few weeks, I have been feeling down. This, however, has been most prevalent over the last few days. This stems from several things. I explored one major contributor with the last personal post. It basically boils down to allowing others to affect my temperament based upon snide comments made about certain aspects of my life in which I take a very personal interest. With this heavy personal investment, it becomes a spirit breaker when someone criticizes something that I believe was done well.
In this particular instance, it was the music part of the worship service that I led three weeks ago. Some criticism came down from some very prominent people in my life and it felt like I got punched squarely in the face. Anyway, I have moved beyond that, but, unfortunately, this has not been the only situation to darken my mood over the past few weeks.
About six weeks ago, I felt God strongly impressing me to look deeply into the conduct of myself and my praise team. Now, I am not a bad guy. The desire of my heart is to look more and more like Jesus every day, reconciling myself to Him in true discipleship. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is the call that Jesus puts on all of our lives. Unfortunately, even with my best intentions, I still fall. I believe that God expects our disobedience; therefore, His grace and mercy are all-sufficient, but that is not a license to freely sin.
The primary issue that humanity has to overcome is the desire to willfully sin that is ingrained within our flesh. We are to do this through living daily, moment by moment, with a focus that is directed solely to the face of God. God has given us His word and wise counsel through Godly people along with a direct link to His knowledge and wisdom through prayer in order to allow us to seek his face moment by moment. He allows us to experience circumstances in our lives that are designed to close the gap between the perfect image of Christ and the broken image that is the picture of our human existence.
In order to be a practicing part of the praise ministry, it is necessary that the lives of the people involved, measure up to scripture. This is due to the fact that each member of the band is seen as a leader within the body of Christ. You might not agree. In fact, there was a time that I didn’t necessarily agree with that, but as I have studied the scripture and the individual needs of my local church, it has become readily apparent that those who play in the praise band are seen as leaders. As a leader, you should model Christ’s love and standards for living to the best of your ability, and, if you are unable to do that, you should step away.
I do not expect every member of the band to have every piece of their life in perfect working order. If that was the case, then I would also be disqualified from service. The heart of the document simply states that in order to participate in the praise ministry at the church, one must be pursuing God at their own pace, making positive progress for the majority of the time. Setbacks are expected. Funky moods happen. God understands this. The point is to present positive progress over time and to be able to be a role model for members of the congregation.
Following the leading of the Holy Spirit, I wrote a covenant for the band. In order to continue minister with the team, It was necessary for each member to review the covenant and sign a commitment form. There was nothing within the document that is outside the expectations of scripture. In fact, this never should even be an issue as every Christian is supposed to be doing this in their lives already.
Unfortunately, three weeks after my initial meeting with the band to relay the heart of the covenant to the band, confrontation reared its explosive head in response to upholding the standards for Christ-likeness that are outlined within the covenant. These standards are pulled straight out of scripture.
I hate confrontation. Seriously. Hate. It.
In order to maintain the integrity of the ministry, I had to ask several people to step down from their positions within the ministry because their daily progress with God was not evident. Actually, they were living lives that were in direct confrontation with the guidelines that Jesus sets forth for us in His teaching. This was the most difficult thing that I have done since I took over as the worship leader seventeen months ago. These people are my family and some of the best musicians that I know. I cannot relay to you how difficult this decision was.
Now, these people, who are vitally important to me, aren’t speaking to me. They don’t acknowledge me. They have stopped coming to church. Hence, this is another aspect adding to the current funk in which I find myself. Seriously, I knew that this was going to happen, but that still did not prepare me for the reality of my present situation. My heart hurts because they are not around anymore, but also because I know that my action “against” them was the final straw. So, I find myself wondering whether or not I did the right thing. When I stand before Jesus at the bema seat, will my actions be justified or will I come to find that I was completely mistaken?
I sought God’s face prior to making any decisions. I also spoke with the leadership of the church and they backed me 100%. I feel like I made the right call, but it hurts so much.
I am honestly just frustrated because I love these people so much, and the desire of my heart is to see them do great things in Christ’s name. I believe that they have the potential to do so. This is precisely the reason that it hurts so much. This is why my heart has been left ripped open and exposed. This is yet another reason that it has been so hard to find my joy as of late.
The question that I continue to ask myself over and over is “Why can’t they just do the right thing?” They know the right thing. I have seen them live a Christ-like life. This is why I am baffled. I just want to do it for them, but I can’t. They have a choice to make and Christ makes it clear that there is no such thing as fence-sitting. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” It is impossible to serve both yourself and God. Period.
Again, this isn’t the only reason for my funky mood, but this one hurt something fierce.
What do I do, internet?
All for His glory.
Have you ever felt like the entire weight of your world is sitting squarely on you shoulders? For the last two days or so, I have just felt heavy (insert fat jokes here). I can’t explain origin of the feeling, however, several things over the last few days have added to this unexplainable heaviness that is making my shoulders sag.
First, let me say that I really hate this. I am not a depressed person. I love life. I have an amazing Savior, a wonderful family, a decent job, an amazing group of friends, and I have music, so this whole “depressed” feeling is new territory for me. I have a lot on my plate between college, work, family, church, and my other responsibilities, but these are nothing new. They haven’t caused me to step into my phone booth to emerge as the Emo Avenger before now, so the question that I ask myself is why now? What flipped this switch in my life that is leaving me in this depressed state rivaling that of a little emo girl pining after Edward from Twilight? I can’t pinpoint the source, but I do have a few ideas regarding the subtle beginnings of this sad state in which I am currently engulfed.
My first issue stems from the fact that I have a huge desire to please people. I am aware that this is not a good thing, but for whatever reason, it is a huge part of the make-up of my wonderful personality. I have said in the past that I don’t care about what people think, which is true to a certain extent. For example, I truly couldn’t care less about what people say about the way I dress. I dress so that I am comfortable while being situationally appropriate. I don’t care about what people think of what car I drive or anything else that exists on a superficial level. I don’t put too much stock into material possessions, anyway. However, I care strongly about what people think regarding the pursuits that hold an important place in my life.
My writing is one of those pursuits. I truly care what people think about my ability to write, the subject matters that I choose to write on, my delivery, etc, because I love to write. To me, writing is cathartic. I use my writing to express those things in my heart that I cannot verbally express either due to the inability to articulate what I want to say, or due to a lack of courage to broach a sensitive subject face-to-face with another human being. It opens up new doors into my inner person that I have trouble delving into in thought alone. This is much what I am attempting to do with this particular post.
You see, music is also one of the things that is vitally important to my life. Without my tunes, I am a lost puppy. I usually have my iPod or a radio going as long as it is appropriate to the current situation in which I find myself. The pursuit of music is the biggest aspiration for my life outside of my pursuit for Christ-likeness. It would be my dream to be able to support my family by playing my guitar and singing. This is an aspiration that even has some merit as I am currently the interim worship leader at my church. This has been an amazing blessing, but I take everything to heart. If someone complains about the music, I feel like they are attacking me. This boils down to my feelings of inferiority that are deeply seeded within me. Honestly, I just don’t feel like I am good enough to do what I am doing, but God has been faithful and he has been moving to make me a better worship leader. It has been a fun journey, but whenever I experience the slightest setback, it makes me feel like I am starting over at step one once again.
Three weeks ago, we had an AWESOME music service, or at least that is what I thought. I am definitely into the more contemporary, younger style of worship music. I love Hillsong United, David Crowder, Chris Tomlin, Deluge, Desperation band, Michael Gungor, and much of the new worship music that is coming out now. Unfortunately, the church that I lead worship for isn’t quite as current on the new musical trends as I am. I like to push the envelope. Screaming electric guitar belongs in a worship setting. I don’t care whether you agree or not. If you condemn any worship style that leads people to the throne of God, then you are wrong. However, I am not so blinded and self-absorbed to completely ignore the preference of others. It is my job to ensure that everyone that attends our church on any given Sunday morning has the opportunity to worship is a semi-comfortable style. We aren’t going back to piano and organ, but perhaps I am pushing the congregation to quickly to where I see the future of the ministry.
Anyway, to make an already long story a bit longer, I walked off the stage after the music had concluded and I was on the proverbial cloud nine. I sat down next to my beautiful wife and asked her how the music was, as that is my custom every Sunday morning. She said it was awesome. I asked one of my closest confidants. She said the music was great. We were a bit more rock and roll than is per our normal worship set, so I was stoked that it was well received. That is where I see the future of our music ministry. I walked out of church singing a sweet tune, having a good time, and generally just happy that God was able to use me once again in a positive way.
So the next day, I was off from my full-time job, so I decided to go put in some office time at the church. Upon arriving, I was still stoked. Then my senior pastor walks into my office and states pretty plainly, “Well, Jeremy, we had some complaints about the music yesterday.”
I was flabbergasted. I just couldn’t understand what the problem was. In retrospect, the style was a bit more upbeat, but I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. The thing that really just smashed my face was when I found out that several of the people, whom I love, respect, and regard highly, decided to go out into the foyer during the service and complain to another member about the music. At this point during the conversation with my pastor, I had moved from hurt and I had started to get mad. I listened to the rest of what Dwain had to say and then I began to stew.
It is funny how God works in my life. As I sat there, all riled up, I began to hear the still small voice of my loving God begin to try to break through the hurt and the anger. At first, I was resistant because Satan wanted me to be content in my rage and distract me from the prize. I was content to let him win at first, but the consistent call of love won out shortly after He began to call. So, before the ever-loving, always merciful face of God, I prayed. I asked what I had done wrong and what I needed to do differently. The answer I got was a bit coded, but made sense the more I meditated on it.
God simply reminded me that it isn’t about me. This is something that I apparently have to be reminded of all the time because I just can’t get it through my thick cranium. The verdict was that I was allowing myself to be wrapped up in all the negativity. Perhaps the sound was too loud. Maybe the songs were too upbeat for that particular morning. The overarching theme that God was (and still is) trying to beat into my brain is that this worship service has nothing to do with me. I don’t desire exaltation, but when people give you compliments about the music, it is hard not to become a little arrogant. A good friend told me last summer that every time that you receive glory, to simply say praise God in order to redirect the praise from yourself directly to Him, because He is deserving and I am not.
He also reassured me that this goes far beyond worship style, song choice, and instrumentation. It is all about the heart of worship, which is a heart that desires to be reconciled to the image of Jesus Christ more and more every second of every day. That is the call of discipleship.
This isn’t the only thing bothering, but seeing as how this post has become a novella, I had better put the rest on hold until later this week. Remember, God works in wonderful and mysterious ways even through our emo blues. Thanks for reading!
All for His glory.